YouTube Music: Streaming Around The Law

YouTube Music

In November, Google became an even more formidable player in the music streaming market by launching two new services: YouTube Red—an ad-free subscription service—and YouTube Music, an audio-focused version of the YouTube app. With Google’s global audience, YouTube’s movement into the streaming industry is bad news for other giants like SoundCloud, Spotify, and Apple Music. While services like Apple Music and Spotify boast huge catalogs of songs, these industry-focused platforms lack the mixtapes, remixes, and user-submitted tracks that make SoundCloud and YouTube popular. Relying on user-submitted content since the start, YouTube has evolved into a unique position that gives Google far more flexibility with copyright laws than other services. Google blatantly has an advantage –especially when comparing YouTube’s success with the downfall of SoundCloud. YouTube’s massive market share has created a situation where Google is practically immune from the dangers posed by copyright infringement, giving Google an advantage over competing music services. Furthermore, as a video and music platform, YouTube’s ad-free subscription provides value beyond music alone, offering customers an irreplaceable, commercial-free experience on the world’s most popular video platform as well. If YouTube is going to enter the music streaming space legitimately, Google needs to follow the same rules as its competitors.

For $9.99 a month, YouTube Red lets customers enjoy an ad-free YouTube experience while also giving users access to the Google Play Music catalog. In a one-two punch, Google launched YouTube Music shortly after Red, allowing users to stream audio-only versions of videos and explore music more intuitively. With a subscription to YouTube Red (there’s a 14-day free trial for users who download YouTube Music), listeners can use the YouTube Music app to save songs for offline listening, play content in the background on mobile, and stream audio-only versions of videos. For users who already rely on YouTube to fit their streaming needs, audio-only mode is a crucial development. Reducing unnecessary data consumption is essential for customers with expensive cellphone plans, and removing video from streams will save heavy YouTube users GBs of data per a month. Users can still use YouTube Music without YouTube Red, but a free plan prevents mobile listeners from playing audio in the background, limiting the usefulness of the service.

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Let’s Reevaluate the Drinking Age

With the introduction of legislature to lower the drinking age in CA and MN, it’s time that this country rationally looks at the national drinking age. Since South Dakota v. Dole in 1987, federal courts have upheld the constitutionality of withholding federal funding from states that do not adhere to the national drinking age. However, the threat of the federal government should not limit political progress at a local level. Lowering the drinking age has social implications beyond just allowing 18 year olds to drink legally. America uses teenage drunk driving to argue the national age, but the pervasiveness of fake IDs already promotes an environment where underage drinking is expected. The discrepancy between the age of college students and the legal drinking age also perpetuates a culture of secretive binge drinking, encouraging irresponsible behavior. Furthermore, with the growing national attention on university sexual assault cases, Americans must not overlook alcohol’s frequent role in these awful situations. It is time to have drinking laws reflect current regional sentiments instead of the national positions of the 70s and 80s.

Proponents of the current drinking age constantly use underage drinking and driving as the main argument for maintaining the national age. However, with an increasing amount of Americans living in urban areas, it is unfair to use drunk driving paranoia to maintain a national drinking laws. Its asinine to say that an 18-year-old should not be able to drink in a major city because there is an 18-year-old in a suburb who relies on driving. Local governments should be able to pass drinking laws that reflect the attitudes of their constituents, and preserving a national drinking age merely prevents politicians from rationally looking at regional drinking ages.

The national drinking age also perpetuates irresponsible alcohol habits through its misalignment with the social reality. When college students show up for their freshman year, they must often complete some sort of alcohol education course. The university expects that the students will be engaging in underage drinking, but the law expects that students will not. Some schools, like the Claremont Colleges, have instituted “red cup” policies where students may drink openly out of red cups as long as their room door is open, but these strategies are rare.

Most schools seek a punitive approach to underage drinking and drinking in open areas, a practice intended to “keep students from consuming alcohol.” In reality, this practice simply confines underage drinkers to locked dorm rooms and off campus houses, where adult supervision is absent and hard alcohol is abundant. Since many Freshman, Sophomores, and Juniors cannot drink legally, binge drinking hard alcohol becomes a de-facto strategy for going to events, resulting in accidents.

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The “Bro” Presidential Candidate

Image from Elite Daily

Image from Elite Daily

Recently, Jeb Bush made headlines when he answered a softball question about superheroes in the dweebiest way possible. There’s no denying that Jeb is not a cool guy. Maureen Dowd’s article in the New York Times highlights the history of Jeb’s political career as he ran for office at the same time as his brother, George W. A particularly cold passage from Dowd’s piece perfectly describe’s the situation so far:

W. headlined a fund-raiser at a Georgetown home Thursday night. When he came out, a TMZ camera captured him jovially signing autographs for people waiting on the street and calling out as he drove away, “Don’t put that on eBay.”

On Friday morning, the chatterers were comparing the stiff Jeb to the loosey-goosey W., gushing with the mistaken cliché that W. is comfortable in his own skin. It was the ultimate vindication for W. His parents had been wrong all along. Jeb wasn’t the Natural on the trail. He was.

In the wake of George Bush and Obama, Jeb seems incredibly boring. This isn’t a United States where sound policy and a strong record can win the presidency alone. Politics is entertainment now more than ever, and candidates have to learn to play the game. As Americans have seen with the rise of Trump, the public loves a good personality. Looking back at the last three presidents, Clinton, George W., and Obama, certain characteristics seem to transcend party lines.

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So Many Packages

Photo from : https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8231/8394217408_a7a722de3c_b.jpg

Photo from : https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8231/8394217408_a7a722de3c_b.jpg

It seems silly, but there’s a problem in the United States surrounding online shopping. The rise of services like Amazon have already had a harsh effect on retail storefronts, but now, the problem has reached the postal industry. As noted in a recent article by the Wallstreet Journal, the surge of parcels from online retailers has created new issues for property managers. Aside from the issue of storing an apartment building’s worth of packages, real estate companies now need to devote an increasing amount of their personal funds to handling deliveries. In recent years, different businesses have implemented a variety of solutions to fix this problem. Amazon set up delivery lockers in partner locations across the United States, and the company continues to push the frontier of online shopping with same day delivery and third party parcel services. Services like Fedex and UPS changed the mail industry when they began to deliver mail, and the rise in online shopping presents another turning point for the delivery industry.

Amazon’s same-day delivery service has caused a lot of controversy since its launch. In a Forbes article from June, Tom Ryan quotes some generally differing responses to Amazon’s move. According to Chris Petersen

“It is a differentiator that will be difficult to replicate because it requires substantial infrastructure, systems and processes which are not easily created overnight. … If there ever was a wake-up call for brick-and-mortar, this should be it. If you can’t match free same-day delivery, you had better deliver over-the-top customer experience in your stores.”

Petersen seems to believe that store-front operation in major cities will face the wraith of Amazon’s new delivery service the quickest. Amazon has already set up warehouses in some of the country’s most active delivery locations, and same-day delivery will certainly put increasing pressure on box stores and general stores to compete. However, rural areas will continue to maintain during this explorative period in the delivery industry. Amazon does not yet have the infrastructure to offer these expedited shipping options everywhere. That being said, rural retailers should certainly contemplate how they might compete in the future.

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A Pay-Optional Culture

Napster Logo

The introduction of the internet to mainstream culture changed content distribution fundamentally. Napster’s notoriety made the public aware that the web could be a tool for sharing audio, video and text files across the world, but slow internet connections prevented P2P sharing from becoming an efficient replacement for purchasing content.

The print industry was hit hard by this change. The online news space became crowded with free options, and print publications –especially local ones– were too slow to adjust. Web advertisements grew in importance as the overall revenue from print ads declined with decreased circulation and subscriptions. A 2015 Pew report graphs the sad state of affairs in terms of annual revenue generated by newspapers both online and in print. Total revenue is down, and online advertisements are not generating enough profit to offset the money lost from print advertisements.

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Multimodal Papers in Academia

As technology continues to pervade education, teachers must consider straying from the traditional academic paper. Writing historically evolves with the latest available tools. Just as by typewritten text replaced handwritten text, digital work continues to intrude on traditional printed mediums. Word processing applications and home printers made professional documents available to the masses with features like tables, embedded graphs, and annotation management. New digital publishing technologies also pioneered computer-specific features like embedded media content and hyper-linked text, which created interactive documents that required non-printed viewing. Despite the pervasiveness of digital documents, however, school assignments remain loyal to the the traditional academic paper. Based entirely on writing and research, the academic paper uses guidelines surrounding margins, text size, and page length to create conformity across submissions. The rubric for grading these assignments focuses heavily on the argument, but the format does not always lend itself to the most effective execution of a thesis. Why should students be limited to the protocol of a pre-digital age? Multimodality can live alongside the traditional academic paper, and students deserve a chance to explore new approaches to argument-based writing.

There are numerous reasons for the traditional paper’s firm hold in academia. For teachers, grading a normal paper can be handled practically everywhere. Multimodal assignments that use video, audio, and interactive media require a computer, and if the media happens to be stored externally, these assignments may need an active internet connection to work as intended. The usability issues are only a small part of the problem however. The academic paper’s stubborn place in higher learning is also a product of education’s respect for tradition.

Academia itself is old fashioned in many ways. The ease of creating a blog has brought about an era where teachers of different experience levels can maintain a public, online opinion, but the clout of these articles still largely depends on the author’s traditional academic achievements. Oftentimes, department chairs are older, tenured Professors who might not feel as optimistic about technology’s place in the classroom as their younger colleagues. With the distractions that computers and cellphones create, it is easy to sympathize with teachers who remain skeptical of technology’s usefulness. History’s effect on a school’s “prestige” also reinforces tradition, and radical changes to a student’s “timeless” experience are sure to raise concern from older faculty and alumni. Additionally, large schools and academic boards often operate as some form of bureaucracy, further slowing major changes in curriculums. There are still disbelievers when it comes to technology’s place in education, but each year, these conservative attitudes become more infrequent.

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Amateur DJs Are Keeping Music Alive

Photo from http://cdn.slashgear.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/numark_idj_live_2-580x426.jpg

Photo from http://cdn.slashgear.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/numark_idj_live_2-580×426.jpg

Since the introduction of programs like Serato and Traktor, the profession of DJing has changed significantly. The expense of records, mixers, and turntables prevented most people from trying the craft, but digital solutions completely destroyed this barrier. Instead of spending thousands on records and equipment, DJs could digitally purchase the tracks they wanted and mix these songs with a cheap MIDI controller. The accessibility of digital mixing tools has created a surge of amateurs, and existing DJs have  seen their profession saturated with beginners willing to perform for less. However, while this situation is not ideal for professional DJs, the rise in amateur DJs is great for the music industry.

As streaming solutions continue to increase in popularity, music sales will keep declining. Music sales still have one key advantage though: the customer receives the file. While this difference does not mean a lot to the average consumer, it does mean something for DJs. Maintaining an up-to-date and extensive library is essential for professional DJs, and streaming solutions cannot replace an organized collection of .wav and MP3 files. Services like Pulselocker have attempted to bridge the gap between streaming and offline music collections, but limitations –such Pulselocker’s size constraints for offline libraries– still hinder streaming’s viability for DJs.

In order to reduce bandwidth expenses for both the consumer and service provider, streaming services also enlist compression algorithms  A Time’s article from March of 2014 (pre-Apple Music and Tidal) broke down the various bitrates across different streaming platforms. Looking at the charts, not a single service streams with lossless compression, meaning that consumers, at the most, are listening to MP3-quality files. Once again, this compression does not mean much for the average consumer, who might bot even be able to tell the difference between different quality streams. For DJs, however, high quality files are integral for maintaining the upmost sound quality on large systems. Hoping to capitalize on the lack of lossless streaming services, Jay-Z’s Tidal entered the music space earlier this year, boasting uncompressed, 1411 KBPS streaming. Tidal does not integrate with any digital DJ programs though, making it an unlikely solution for DJs maintaining a large song collection. Pulselocker has software integration tools, but the quality is only 320 KBPS, leaving room for improvement. Pulselocker is on the right track with offline song use and DJ software integrations, but the service’s limited catalog and lossy streaming will limit widespread adoption for the foreseeable future.

Professional DJs have witnessed their craft flooded with amateurs, but hopefully these same amateurs can help the music industry as a whole. Amateurs have undoubtedly saturated the profession of DJing to a point where many music fans no longer appreciate the skill that goes into mixing tracks, but amateurs might also prove to be the only music listeners who actually buy music. Record labels would be wise to cater to the aspiring DJ demographic –especially younger DJs who’s music-purchasing habits are still very impressionable. If labels can convince young DJs that purchasing music is better than streaming or pirating, the music industry might be able to maintain a small, but active group of listeners who consistently purchase music. While it is easy to empathize with professionals who are constantly undercut by amateur DJs, these amateurs have the potential to help record sales in a culture where people don’t buy albums.

 

The Problem with University Uber Initiatives

UBER_USCButton

When USC announced a partnership with Uber to augment the university’s campus cruiser program, students were excited. Ride sharing services had already become an integral part of the college experience in Los Angeles, and many students were already familiar with Uber when the USC program launched. Inefficient public transportation and sizable distances make a car essential for getting around LA, and ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft have been a tremendous help by providing students with viable option for mobility.

In Los Angeles, Uber has several tiers of service, ranging from uberPOOL (a shared ride service) to Uber Lux (a personal luxury car). While the more expensive rides like Lux, Select, and Black maintain a flat rate no matter the hour, UberX services engage in a controversial practice called “surge pricing,” which multiplies a fare depending on the supply and demand of rides. This practice has already resulted in some amusing headlines and public backlash, but Uber continues to defend surge pricing as the fairest way to ensure rides are equally available.

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Dawkins and Critical Thought

A term seldom heard, “public intellectual” comes across as pompous. Individuals heavily debate the specific qualifications of a public intellectual, but certain people undoubtedly wear this title. Is there even a distinction between an “intellectual” and a “public intellectual?” According to Wikipedia,

 

“An intellectual is a person who engages in critical study, thought, and reflection about the reality of society, and proposes solutions for the normative problems of that society, and, by such discourse in the public sphere, he or she gains authority within the public opinion.”

 

This definition, based on the writing of Jeremy Jenning and Anthony Kemp-Welch, argues that publicity and public perception are inherently connected to what makes an intellectual an intellectual. Simply being talented or smart does not earn one this title. The best computer programmer in the world is no more an intellectual than the best construction worker if neither of these people engage others with critical thought. However, if the modifier “public” is to be found certain places and absent others, there must be a difference between an “intellectual” and a “public intellectual.” This nuance revolves around the audience an intellectual reaches and the influence he or she has on that audience. A public intellectual must be a national figure, respected and engaged with a population sizeable enough for high quality critique. An international audience allows for worldly criticisms, aiding a public intellectual’s holistic understanding of issues. Criticism is an integral aspect of the public intellectual’s role due to its tendency to cause a constant reevaluation of his ideas. However, with this criticism comes counter criticism, and many public intellectuals tend to seem abrasive due to their confidence in their own philosophies.

 

Richard Dawkins is a widely accepted public intellectual due to his contributions to evolutionary studies. In 1976, Dawkins gained public recognition with his book The Selfish Gene, which delves into issues of natural selection and genetics. Another significant contribution came in 1982, when Dawkins wrote The Extended Phenotype, proposing that phenotypes are not only a product of genetics, but of the surrounding environment as well. These successive works established Hawkins as an intellectual power in the study of evolution while setting the stage for Hawkins to become a central figure in the debate against creationism.

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